Building a Passionate Community is Different Than Inbound Marketing

Recently I was talking with an entrepreneur who has been implementing inbound marketing best practices for years but not getting much value. His startup is past the product / market fit stage and now he’s working on building a repeatable customer acquisition machine and needs to fill the top of the marketing funnel (see Lead Generation Drives SaaS Startups). On the inbound marketing front, he’s been writing blog posts, creating white papers, nurturing followers on Twitter, and following search engine optimization recommendations.

After thinking about it for a minute, I commented that implementing inbound marketing best practices is different from building a passionate community. Here are a few thoughts on it:

  • Standard content, while keyword rich, often isn’t edgy or strongly opinionated
  • Offline interaction and building personal rapport is an important ingredient in cultivating a community
  • Audience engagement is readily measured based on number of comments, retweets, and follow-up emails
  • Amazing storytellers, like the best programmers, are 10x more effective than their colleagues

So, as part of building a passionate following, think about the cult in culture and figure out what resonates with the people you want engaged. Inbound marketing is about relevant content while a passionate community comes from compelling leadership.

What else? What are some more thoughts on how building a passionate community is different than inbound marketing?

6 thoughts on “Building a Passionate Community is Different Than Inbound Marketing

  1. One other difference: Most marketing efforts are (and should be) measured as much as possible by ROI. But that’s decidedly not the case with community (or as Gary V so memorably put it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZY5b85KoOU). Building a community is all about helping people, and you can’t always justify doing the right thing strictly by the numbers. You just need to embrace a certain amount of inefficiency and trust that doing the right thing will eventually pay off.

  2. Not sure I agree there needs to be a mutually exclusive line in the sand here. Inbound marketing and community building dovetail together nicely. Ideally, you would love your community to contribute inbound content and traffic, and you want your inbound activities to help drive the growth of your community. It all takes a good leader that can guide and distinguish between fluff, puff, and the stuff that drives engagement.

    • Adding to Bruce’s argument, I’d say that it’s very hard to find examples of companies that do great Inbound Marketing without building a reputation as an authority in their markets/communities.
      Even so, aligned with David’s point, I see a lot of entrepreneurs just trying to employ the techniques without putting in the effort to become leaders and then blaming IM for the lack of results.

  3. Building a passionate community means that you/your product/your company truly stands for something and you express it in such a way that others want to be part of the bigger picture. Anyone can implement inbound marketing but few can create movements with their product that people rally around.

  4. This is exactly right. You can go through the motions of content marketing, but it’s not going to work if you don’t engage your audience (and influencers). If your content isn’t resonating or valuable, then you’re wasting your time. You need to be definitive source for something. The thought leader. The expert. And, if you’re not that, you should at least be provocative.

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